FORT WORTH, TX — They won the Big 12 regular season title. They won the conference tournament. They earned a National Seed and the right to play on their home field for as long as they were playing.
But Sunday afternoon, the playing came to an end, as the Frogs’ offense let them down on the way to a 3-2 loss to the bracket’s #2 seed, Oregon State.
In a stark contrast to the first two games of the weekend, TCU Baseball actually scored first Sunday afternoon, pushing across a run in the first frame, using a double steal to get on the board. Zach Humphreys walked with one out, sprinting to third on Brayden Taylor’s single to right center. With two outs, Taylor took off for second, allowing Hump to slide into home safely on the double steal.
They would add a run in the third, and it would be Humphreys again. He doubled to leadoff the inning, reaching third when Taylor was safe on a ground ball thanks to an error. Phillip Sikes hit a sac fly to make it a 2-0 game — and that was pretty much it for the TCU offense.
Chuck King earned the start and battled; he threw four scoreless frames, allowing just three hits while striking out three with the help of two double plays. But the Beavers got the offense working in the fifth — a walk followed by a double and two singles tied the score at two apiece. The third double play turned by the defense ended the inning and allowed King and the Frogs to escape without further damage.
King got in trouble again in the sixth, allowing three straight singles after setting down the leadoff batter. He exited the contest in the middle of an at bat, with Garrett Wright coming in from the pen two strike out the final two batters of the frame to leave the bases loaded. Wright got just one more batter, walking Meckler after it appeared a ball had hit him in the head. A long review showed it had hit his bat first, but the long delay meant a pitching change for TCU.
Marcelo Perez relieved Wright and threw a strong 2.0 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out one. That left the ninth for Haylen Green.
Haylen Green has been the consummate Horned Frog; four years in, the whirling dervish lefty has encompassed everything good about TCU Baseball. So I hope that fans will remember all of the good he did and not what happened Saturday afternoon.
Green hit the first batter he faced, and a stolen base put the lead runner in scoring position. After a groundout to third, a base hit up the middle put the Beavers on top 3-2, the eventual winning margin.
The blame should not be on Green, or King, or Wright, or Perez — the TCU offense flat out did not show up Sunday. striking out nine times in the final four innings and leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. They had just two hits Sunday — one each by Humphreys and Taylor — stranding ten base runners and striking out 15 times total. It was a completely flat performance, a hangover from Saturday night’s crushing defeat. “We certainly had our chances, had chances to stretch the lead,” Jim Schlossnagle said. “I mean, they punched us out 15 times — they obviously executed a lot of good pitches.” It wasn’t that the hitters weren’t trying, but maybe that they were “trying a little too hard,” Schlossnagle continued. “Any time you’re playing for your season, sometimes you try a little too hard.”
It’s hard not to be mad about the way the season ended, to simply discount all of the good that came along the way. And there is still a ton of talent expected to return to Fort Worth in the fall. The seniors — Zach Humphreys, Haylen Green, Charles King, Dalton Brown, Austin Henry, Hunter Wolfe, Gene Wood, and Conner Shepherd gave us a million memories over their time at TCU, sacrificing for the program time and time again. The mantra of selflessness that Jim Schlossnagle preaches was evident in those guys all season long, whether they were everyday players or in a bench role. “Those eight seniors, those eight guys — some of them could have chosen to go into professional baseball, some of them into the rest of life. But they chose to come back and reestablish our program and I think they did that,” Schloss said. “To win two conference championships, to be a national seed, hosting a regional — short of Omaha, that’s getting us back. I’m super proud of them and it’s an honor to be with them everyday.”
And what of Schloss? The smoke continues to churn out of College Station, and with Kirk Saarloss expected not to take the Cal State Fullerton job, it feels like the wheels could be in motion for big changes in Funky Town. We won’t know until we know, but Frog fans will certainly have their ears to the ground in the coming weeks.
TCU Baseball has accomplished so much, and had a hell of a season in 2021 despite all of the obstacles set in their path. Getting bumped from a home Regional as a National Seed is a terrible cross to bear, but sometimes, that’s just the way baseball go.
“It’s certainly a disappointing day, no doubt about it,” Jim Schlossnagle said. “Any time your season ends, it doesn’t feel good.”
All we can do now is regroup and hope we have something to build on for 2022.